Thursday, May 8, 2008

Say Anything

Remember the movie The Jerk? Steve Martin starts off the story narrating as his character Navin Johnson by saying "I was born a poor black child." It's funny because it's so obviously not true. We all know Steve Martin, and we know he's not black. In fact, he's really, really white. And he delivers it with a straight face. So we juxtapose the obvious truth with the earnestly-made statement, and voila! Comedy!

So how is it now that Hillary Clinton can get away with this last month of pretending to be a pickup-driving, duck hunting, boilermaker-swilling blue collar candidate without generating thunderous guffaws everywhere she goes? We have the juxtaposition - the obvious truth that Hillary is one of those candidates who might go blank if she was asked the current cost of a gallon of milk (a question that stumped the first Pres. Bush, I recall), and the earnestly-made statement, i.e., "I am just a good ol' boy - or good ol' woman - like you." Not only that, but at the same time re-casting Obama as an elitist! Now that's what I call spin.

The most recent laugh-out-loud moment: this week's big statement about how she will take on OPEC if elected.
"We're going to go right at OPEC," she told supporters in Merrillville, Indiana. "They can no longer be a cartel, a monopoly that get together once every couple of months in some conference room in some plush place in the world, they decide how much oil they're going to produce and what price they're going to put it at."
Nicely populist pitch. This from a woman who has spent just about her entire adult life in conference rooms, mostly in plush places, making decisions with other people in the top 2% in income, education and power. Hardy har har.

Let's look at Hillary's hardscrabble beginnings. She grew up in the suburbs. Her father managed a business. (There's some street cred.) She's a good student and gets into Wellesley College. (One of the original Seven Sisters colleges, and no doubt just chock full of future blue-collar workers in training.) She then goes on to Yale Law (I assume she worked her way through as a bricklayer or garbage collector?) and directly into a law firm (perhaps captaining the bowling team?) She works in law and politics exclusively, moves to Arkansas with Bill, gets married, works in more law firms. Next thing you know, first lady of Arkansas, then on to the White House. Hardly seems like enough time in there for all the ditch-digging and coal-mining she must have done to earn the down-to-earth, regular-folks mantle she's trying to wear today.

Sure, every pol plays this same act in a campaign. Maybe it's not fair that Hillary's past is so well known and documented, heightening the absurdity of it. And maybe it's more annoying because of the irony that Obama actually has some hard-scrabble background, at least by comparison with Hil. He's the only one of the three, if you include McCain, who can make a claim of being from common stock - and yet he bowled a 37. Go figure.

I suppose it's tilting at windmills to expect candidates to restrain themselves, and remain somewhere closer to reality as they talk about themselves and their characters. Then again, a little honesty might result in a little trust, and a little trust is a good place to start.

1 comment:

DodgerScott said...

Honesty? Trust? Sorry bro, we're a long way down the road at this point of the presidential race. Ron Paul has been left by the wayside. Honesty and trust were only important when Abe Lincoln was president.